Author: Jacob Sweeney

Assistant Coach, Polk State College 

Most of today’s youth play for a local soccer club. A soccer club is an organization specifically focused on the game of soccer in a geographical area that organizes leagues and teams. Within each club are two basic divisions; recreational (or inter-league) and competitive, sometimes referred to as travel teams, because these teams travel to play other clubs outside their geographical area. Competitive travel teams are considered a higher level of skill than recreational teams, usually cost more to be a part of, and often require a tryout to make.

If you are looking for a soccer league or team to be a part of, start by checking your area for your local soccer club. A quick internet search should do the trick. You may find that there are several clubs in the area to choose from, which leads to the first big decision you have: which club will you play for? There is a bit of research that needs to be done here, so be sure to do your due diligence.

Once you find the league or team that seems to be the best fit for your child, and if competitive travel teams seem like your cup of tea, find out when your club will be holding tryouts. This information can usually be found on the club’s website or through the club’s social media. While soccer is typically a fall sport, tryouts for many competitive travel teams are held in the spring.

Okay, you have done your research, and found a club that’s a good fit for your child. Now it’s time to tryout.

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But let’s use this moment to take inventory. Before trying out, really do your homework about the league and coach your child will be playing for. In soccer, competitive teams participate in leagues that are run by organizations outside the club. Each of these leagues come with its own skill level or division and depending on your child’s skill level, one league could be a better match than another. Furthermore, each league organization has its own rules and procedures, game dates, and travel, which could include traveling out of state.

Also, learn about the coach your child will be playing for. This is probably the most important part of your child’s soccer experience and development, so find a good one. It’s a good idea to go see the coach run a few practices before trying out for his or her team. Specifically, watch how he or she interacts with the players.  Look for a coach with the heart of a teacher. These coaches take time to connect with their players, focus on development and are willing to sacrifice a little recognition of their own for the good of the player.

Okay, so you have done your research and are comfortable with the coaches and club - time to get serious about the actual tryout. Here are a few areas to work on before tryouts to make sure you earn your spot.

  1. Get in shape. There are lots of ways to accomplish this. Find a program that works for you and get working.
  2. Ball Work. Often referred to as technical work, make sure you bone up on your touches on the ball. Again, there are lots of programs you can follow to help you work on your touch. Find one that is about your level and get busy.
  3. Get on the field. Get out with a few people and play a few games, knock the ball around and get used to the movement. Any pick-up soccer in the area should do the trick or even playing with a few friends.

The day before:

  • Get some rest.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Eat well.

On the day of:

At tryouts kids are divided up by age and are expected to try out for the team/s within their age group. I say “team/s” because many clubs offer multiple teams within an age group. Which team your child plays on has to do with their performance at tryouts. Because your child’s performance is so important, preparation is key.
  • Arrive early and get comfortable with the surroundings.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather conditions. Make sure you are comfortable. It’s also probably not a good day to break in a new pair of cleats.
  • Go hard. Make an impression and get noticed. The worst thing that can happen is to get to the end of tryouts and the coach not have noticed you.

After tryouts:

  • Thank the Coach for his or her time, shake hands, be confident.
  • Mentally prepare for the idea that you may not make it.

Once the tryout is over there’s really not much more you can do.  It’s now up to the coaches to choose their team. Hopefully you have done your best and are selected.  And if you do make the team, get ready to work. Competitive soccer requires not just a passion for the game, but a commitment to the team.

One last area. As players grow and improve, some may have interest in playing at the professional level. If your child has this ambition, there are tryouts for that too, and frankly, they are not that different than the youth level.  For information on tryouts at that level, a good resource will be your competitive coach, who can point you in the right direction.